Doing Something Badly

Back during the summer, my good friend Emily asked me to do a special lettering piece for her new home. Emily and her husband really love the author G.K. Chesterton, and wanted to a piece of art featuring his quote "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." Such a wonderful reminder, for those of us who are creative, that just because something did not turn out "right" on the first go does not mean it is without worth.

GK Chesterton.jpg

Detail of the third and final attempt.

Which is why it was appropriate that this piece took three tries to get the look right. Initially, I had an idea of paint splats surrounding the text; but my first pass had lettering that was too widely spaced and the power of the quote felt scattered on the page. I let the piece sit for a couple of months as I started a new class in August, but recently I had time to come back to the concept. Reviewing the first attempt, I decided to start over: and created an absolute mess. It was a really interesting to see how different paints and different techniques don't work together. I had tried blotting a lot of the metallic paint to give a worn effect, but instead I built layers of color that began to look a bit too much like... blood. I had wanted the piece to feel worn and worked over... as though the artist had be trying and trying to master some skill.

On my third try, I decided to start with the lettering again, and while I know I can grow in this area, I was pleased with the consistency and spacing. I then put down copper and rust colored paints to look more like a spill across the page rather than a blot or large splatter, with tinges of pink and green and orange. I think this shape allows the eye to travel and balance the piece, but was also more of an achievable effect to build. The colors were chosen to fit my friend's home decor, but are not so dark that they will get lost in the corner.

I believe that the journey to creating a good piece of art is a mixture of intent and planning, but also letting the materials speak for themselves. As a friend recently said, sometimes you have to know when to let a piece go. Even when that means letting go several times over.

Full Piece - Commission of Emily Tipping

Full Piece - Commission of Emily Tipping